BOISE -- According to a recent report, as many as 20 times a day, Boise Police officers are dispatched to calls of people in crisis (which include:people who are distraught, a possible danger to themselves and others, and many of whom are dealing with mental illness).
Officers are trained how to deal with these situations, but have limited options, when it comes to helping people in the long-run.
Dick Armstrong, Director of the Idaho Health and Welfare Department, says, This is not getting better. We need to do something.
Many of the people in crisis are dealing with mental illness, and while Armstrong says mental health commitments have been flat, mental holds by police are way up. A mental hold is when an officer believes the person poses a danger to themselves or others.
Then having to do one of two things: you either have to put them in jail, arrest them for trespassing or some other minor offense, or take them to the hospital. And then wait for hours and hours while they are assessed and/or detox, which is a terrible waste of law enforcement resource.
But, a bill working its way through the Legislature could help. Senate Bill 1352 would create three crisis centers in Boise, Idaho Falls, and Coeur d'Alene. They'd be staffed with mental health professionals, which would take the burden off police and only accept voluntary admissions.
Armstrong says they'd be a much more effective solution for people in crisis. Law enforcement can say, 'I can do the things I normally do, or you can voluntarily go over to this crisis center, where there are professionals 24/7 to take care of your issue, detox, and then be placed in treatment, whatever's appropriate in the private sector.' So these are community-based and they're really very humane ways of dealing with these folks who are having a temporary crisis.
The centers would cost more than $5 million, although $600,000 of that would be one-time funding. Armstrong says it's money well spent and legislators seem to agree. The bill has already passed the Senate easily, and is on its way to the House.
They all see a real gap, it's just been unaddressed forever, said Armstrong.
Armstrong also says while they're initially asking for three centers, he believes, when county leaders see their success, they'll put them in every community.